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15 British era watermills withstand test of time in K-P village


Despite the advancements in irrigation systems throughout the country, the importance of watermills particularly in rural areas has not faded away completely as 15 such mills were still standing strong in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Mathra village, just a few kilometres away from provincial capital Peshawar.
The tradition of grinding flour via a watermill in Mathra has been going on for generations. These eco-friendly mills were set up along dense trees and on top of a canal during the British rule before partition in 1947. People from the surrounding villages also come here to grind their wheat.
Ashfaq Khan, a local resident, told The Express Tribune that people in the area do not like to eat bread from tandoor. “Most people have their own gardens and crops. Each year, people get their wheat grinded from here after harvesting,” he added.

He said that the flour made from the watermill is not only sweet and rich in nutrients but also better for the digestive system. Ashfaq said lots of essential nutrients are taken out of the flour available in the market therefore the locals here always prefer to use their own flour grinded in the watermill.
A local supervisor of the mill said that these watermills have been serving the locals “since of the time of their ancestors”. “I am 56 years old and these mills are here [since the time of my birth],” he added.

When people bring wheat to the watermill, three-quarter of it is given back to the one who brought it and one-fourth is kept by the mill. Apart from giving livelihood to locals, they are not dependent on electricity so they keep running despite loadshedding in the area. They only remain shut for two months in the year when the water is low in the canal.

These decades-old mills also survived the catastrophic floods of 2010. However, the locals said, the flood severely damaged the surrounding populations.
They said that the floods damaged 10 watermills in Swat but the ones here remained intact.

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